16/07/2014 12:10 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

The Best Cost-Nothing Toys For Babies And Toddlers

The best cost-nothing toys for babies and toddlersAlamy

These are the every day items that your child will find much more interesting than expensive toys that they quickly grow out of and clutter your home.

For newborn babies: Go for bright colours, unusual textures and funny noises

1. Keys

It's a cliché, but babies really do love keys! Whether it's the jangle, the cool slipperiness, or that - however hard they try - they just can't pull them apart, you'll be reaching into your handbag for these handy pacifiers more often than you'll think.

2. Mirror

It takes a little while for babies to realise it's their own face they're looking at. But even before then, they'll enjoy staring at the funny little fella in front of them.

3. Rice in a pot

This simple shaker will keep your baby intrigued whether it's you making the fun noise, or letting him try and make sounds. Just make sure the lid's on tightly!

4. Cushion

You'll have heard about the importance of 'tummy time' for developing your baby's upper body strength. Try propping him up on his elbows on a colourful cushion to ensure he has a pretty pattern to look at even if his head lolls

5. Your face

Your reactions, expressions and voice when you're playing are often even more interesting than the toy you're waving to your newborn. Tiny babies automatically lock onto friendly faces, so go for big smiles, exaggerated mannerisms and a playful tone to your voice to keep him enthralled.

The best cost-nothing toys for babies and toddlersAlamy

One years olds: Your growing baby's motor skills enable him to pick up and place objects down so lots of 'things' should work wonders

1. Tupperware

Your little one will love taking lids on and off and building towers with these unbreakable boxes.

2. Fridge magnets

Sliding magnets around on metal surfaces such as your fridge or dishwasher door, or a cool radiator, makes for entertaining fun for youngsters who haven't witnessed this miracle of physics before!

3. Water toys

Water play is great fun in or out of the bath. Plastic measuring jugs and beakers, as well as sieves, straws and spoons, all make simple toys for pouring and filling.

4. Bubbles

You can replace the bubble mixture in an old pot with a concoction of ½ cup of washing up liquid to 5 cups of water and 2tbsp glycerine (available from pharmacies and health food shops), or use a drinking straw for a wand. Now get your little one to pop as many as she can!

5. A box of odds and ends

Toddlers love collecting objects and putting them in and out of boxes or pots, so put together an assortment of empty cotton reels, pinecones, pieces of sponge or silver foil and so on. She'll spend ages playing and sorting - just make sure nothing's small enough to swallow.

The best cost-nothing toys for babies and toddlersGetty

Two year olds: Your toddler is developing a strong imagination, so 'let's pretend' games where she can mimic you are perfect.

1. A tablecloth

Make a simple den by draping a large cloth over two stable chairs. Your toddler will love having her own space, or playing 'house' with her toys.

2. Old mobile phone

Two-year-olds love copying what you do, so hand your old mobile over to Junior so he can pretend to make his own calls. It'll stop him running off with your phone, too!

3. Large cardboard box

Create your own playhouse or spaceship by cutting a 'door' and decorating a big box (ask your local supermarket if they have any spare).

4. Sticking

You don't need to visit a hobby store to stock up on craft supplies. Try cutting up some coloured paper, tearing fun images out of magazines or even using pasta shapes and creating collages with some child-friendly glue.

5. Dressing up

Don't throw out your old clothes - keep them for fancy dress fun! Your mini-me will love trying on hats, gloves, chunky jewellery and scarves, while an old frilly nightie makes a surprisingly good princess outfit...